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Isaiah 48:1–16 The Lord Deals with a Stubborn Covenant People
Nephi cited Isaiah 48 and 49 (see 1 Nephi 20–21) and other chapters from Isaiah in order to “more fully persuade [his people] to believe in the Lord their Redeemer,” and also, that they “may have hope” (1 Nephi 19:23–24). In Isaiah 48, Isaiah addresses God’s covenant people, the house of Israel, with the command “Hear this, O house of Jacob” (48:1; the language to “hear” is found seventimes in this section). Although Israel is a stubborn people (48:4), they remain God’s “chosen” ones (48:10). Bracketed items set forth the variant readings in 1 Nephi 20:1–16.
waters of Judah/waters of baptism. The words “or out of the waters of baptism” are first attested in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon with parentheses around them; the parentheses were removed in 1920. who swear by name of the Lord. Those who have made covenants and oaths in the Lord’s name; however, Isaiah states that they made the covenants without “truth” and without “righteousness” (48:1).
holy city. Both Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1; Ether 13:5) and the New Jerusalem (Ether 13:8; Doctrine and Covenants 109:58) are “holy.” Lord of Hosts. Generally refers to the Lord’s hosts of angels.
former things I announced from of old. Anciently, the Lord prophesied, and His prophecies “came to pass,” just as He stated they would.
you are obstinate/your neck is iron sinew/your forehead is brass. These three expressions express the prideful and stubborn nature of ancient Israel.
before it came to pass, I announced it to you. The Lord has all knowledge and knows all things, past, present, and future; therefore, He can tell us things even before they come to pass.
you were called a transgressor from the womb. The Lord is still addressing Israel, and not individual Israelites. See also verse 10.
I have refined you/I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction. Just as a hot furnace refines metals and burns off gross elements and impurities, God symbolically refines His people “in the furnace of affliction.” Importantly, God Himself is the refiner (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2–3). I have chosen you. God chose Israel to conduct His sacred work among the nations. On multiple occasions, Isaiah refers to Israel as God’s “chosen” people (14:1; 41:8; 49:7; 65:9).
DSS Isaiah reads “I be profaned.”
I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last. These words express God’s eternal nature (41:4; 44:6; Revelation 22:13; Alma 11:39). God revealed to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:4).
I call to them; they stand forth together. God calls to the earth and the heavens, and they both obey His commands.
Babylon/Chaldeans. These represent the world and worldliness; also, anciently, they were Israel’s enemies. King Cyrus helped to fulfill these words in 539 BC.
I will make. One DSS Isaiah scroll reads “I” rather than “he.”
I have not spoken in secret. God prophesies openly (45:19). the Lord and His Spirit, has sent me. Isaiah testifies that the Lord and His Spirit have sent him to be a prophet and seer.
Isaiah 48:17–19 Blessings God Desired for Israel
In the previous section, the Lord declared that Israel was an “obstinate” people (48:4). In this section He submits several blessings—“peace,” “righteousness,” posterity, and an eternal name—that Israel would have received had they kept His commandments. 1 Nephi 20:17 and 19 presents some variants to the reading.
your peace . . . like a river (see also 1 Nephi 2:9–10). When we keep God’s commandments, our peace (the kind of peace that Jesus Christ gives to us [see John 14:27; 16:33]) will continually flow like a river. your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Our righteousness, when we obey God’s commandments, will be unstoppable like the sea’s waves; and too, as the waves are subject to the pull of the moon, our righteousness will be subject to the draw of the heavens.
your seed . . . like the sand. This language recalls the Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 22:17–18; Doctrine and Covenants 132:30). Righteous individuals have the promise of eternal increase, meaning the blessing of eternal families.
Isaiah 48:20–22 Song of the Flight from Babylon
Isaiah commands God’s people, “Go forth from Babylon; flee from Chaldea” (48:20), meaning flee from the world and its evil influences. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith a similar command: “Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:14). But we are not to flee with heads hanging down in despair; we are to go forth with joy, or, with a “voice of singing.” Isaiah 48 is cited in 1 Nephi 20 but with some variants.
Go forth from Babylon. The expression has a twofold application: ancient Israel was commanded to flee from Babylon, the ancient country, and return to their promised land; we, modern Israel in the last days, are directed to go out from Babylon, which symbolizes worldliness. The Lord twice (for emphasis) commands, “Go ye out from Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:5, 7). With a voice of singing. Obeying God’s command to flee the world should cause our hearts to sing with joy—and not quietly, to ourselves, but to the “end of the earth,” or to all parts of the earth. What will the singers sing? “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob. And they did not thirst in the deserts where He led them. He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; He split the rock, and the water gushed out” (48:20–21). These are the words of the song that we will sing as we flee the world. The words recall the Lord’s miracles for Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 20:7–11; Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalm 78:15–20).
Notwithstanding God’s marvelous works on behalf of His covenant people, He declares, “There is no peace for the wicked.”
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